Interactive ambient lighting in public seating: "mood seats" that change colour in response to people's actions


February 8, 2005

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February 9, 2005 Shopping centres, train stations and other artificially-lit public spaces may take on a magical ambience in the future thanks to an innovative project entitled 'Glowing Places.' The project is a collaboration between Philips and the world-renowned Royal College of Art and places interactive lighting inside public seating that glows, dims, flashes and changes colour in response to people's presence and actions.

The design arm of Philips Electronics, in collaboration with the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre at the Royal College of Art in London, are exploring innovative ways for people to interact with light in public spaces. The 'Glowing Places' project is the result of this research and successfully demonstrates their goal of bringing a more ambient experience to artificial lighting.

"Artificial light is usually rather boring because it is static," says Job Rutgers, Senior Design Consultant at Philips Design. "Natural light is changing all the time due to reflections, the time of day and year, type of weather, and so on. The incredibly dynamic quality is very attractive and energising to people and that is what we want to replicate with Glowing Places in an artificial lighting environment."

Dynamic Lighting

Glowing Places consists of transparent seating units, embedded with LED (light-emitting diode) strips and sensors, measuring the presence of people over time. Both the number of people sitting and the length of time they stay create a social interactive pattern that is translated by patented software into lighting effects in the furniture. Many people sitting for brief periods of time would result in lighting that expresses busy activity, whereas one or two people sitting for a longer period would trigger mellow lighting.

The result is lighting that stimulates social interactions in public spaces. The dynamic lighting systems make public places, waiting rooms for example, more pleasant, because in contrast to static artificial lighting the Glowing Places concept emulate aspects of changing natural light. Research: The emotional building

Glowing Places is built on Philips Design's research on the theme of the 'emotional building' - a building that responds to the behavior and feelings of its users by visually expressing the activity inside. Glowing Places demonstrates the importance of lighting to signify the changing emotional states.

Research is at the basis of Philips Design's Process, which aims to develop technology products and solutions that are culturally relevant for people and that smoothly integrate the benefits of technology into people's lives. All design work is based on thorough social and cultural research, conducted by Philips Design on behalf of Philips' product divisions.

'Glowing Places' is currently a research project with future installations under consideration.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, (Australia's largest Telco), (Australia's largest employment site),,, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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